D/A Converter w/ High Res Support (up to DSD512) USB, HDMI ARC, Optical, & Balanced Outputs
The MDA200 D/A Converter from McIntosh provides premium digital music capabilities. It can add digital music listening to an otherwise all analog home audio system, or it can also be a useful upgrade to an older D/A Converter that has become outdated and needs to be replaced so you can achieve better playback performance and enjoy current features. It is a stand-alone, outboard D/A Converter that can easily be added to home audio systems of various sizes, ages, and configurations.
A DAC for the Decades
McIntosh has moved to a card based DAC system which means you will be able to simply replace the rear DAC module should they come up with even better tech, rather than having to replace the entire unit. With digital tech changing so fast, this is an outstanding feature.
Full Function Digital Preamp
While many people will use the MDA200 just as a DAC, it can be used as a digital preamp. It has enough output to drive even very long output cables and with its 8 volts of output compared to 2 on similar products, it can drive any power amp with ease.
Quad Balanced DAC
The DA2 DAC module included with the MDA200 uses a Quad Balanced design which greatly improves signal to noise ratio so you’ll perceive micro dynamic changes easier and be pulled even more into the music.
The new McIntosh MDA200 Digital to Analog Converter is only the fourth DAC in the company’s history. The D150 has been discontinued for a few years and, during that time, McIntosh Labs came up with the idea of supplying the DAC portion as a separate module you could insert into many McIntosh pieces to add digital sources should you want to.
If you know much about the 70+ year history of McIntosh Labs, you know they care a lot about creating products to last generations. While power amps and preamps do not really go through revolutionary changes over time, the digital side of things changes pretty quickly in the grand scheme of things.
What is the Design and Build Quality Like?
The MDA200 DAC features a slim profile with a timeless black glass faceplate and the McIntosh logo tastefully illuminated. Their classic rotary control knobs and custom machined aluminum end caps also let you know immediately it's another great McIntosh piece. Like all of their units with a display, you can set the dim of level in the trim settings.
We love the way McIntosh always thinks about how one of their components will look paired with others. In our testing, we put the MDA200 DAC right beside a C22 preamp, whose knobs are identical and have the same horizontal spread. Even the height of the MDA200 equaled the exact height of the glass panel section of the C22. That is true attention to detail.
McIntosh has also recently started using a new system to illuminate the front panel or meters. LEDs can lose output over time if you drive them hard, so they developed a new system using a larger number of very tiny surface mount LEDs. These are driven at a low power level and should provide decades of service. This is a prime example of how their engineers think long-term.
What Features and Technology Does the MAC200 DAT Have?
The MDA200 can serve as a stand alone DAC or a fully functional digital preamp in a digital only system. There are a few other Digital Audio Converters on the market that offer both of these functions, but we do not know of one that thought of everything the engineers at McIntosh came up with for this great new model.
Their team wanted any McIntosh owner to be able to add the MDA200 to their system while giving it modern control features. With this in mind, it has both balanced audio outputs and unbalanced RCA outputs on the rear panel. It has the standard data ports we usually see on McIntosh pieces that can pass commands. It also has a power control in and out, which means you could use the out to control power on/off on a McIntosh or any power amp with a trigger. There is also an RS232 for control system use.
The MDA200 DAC has seven digital inputs - two coaxial digital, two Toslink optical digital, 1 USB for computer audio, 1 MCT for connecting up a McIntosh transport or player with the MCT connector, and an HDMI connector with ARC.
HDMI-ARC is a great feature you to connect up a TV that has ARC or eARC to your unit. The TV and unit can then be set to accept CEC control, which means your TV remote will do all of the work - turn on the MDA200, select the HDMI input, and control its volume should you be using it as a digital preamp. This lets you get TV audio to your nice two channel system greatly enhancing its sound. Pro-tip: you will have better luck with this feature with newer TVs. In any case, it's great to be able to get TV sound via HDMI to the MDA200 DAC.
The MDA200 DAC will expertly convert multi-channel audio formats from Dolby® and DTS® and will be expertly converted to 2-channel audio for proper playback. McIntosh also gives you the option of manually adjusting the lip sync to align your speakers with the voices on your TV or you can have it all happen automatically.
McIntosh also understands their customers like to customize their systems. You can rename any of the inputs to whatever you wish and you can even set a trim level for each one in case any of them are louder or quieter than the others. All input switching is done like the current McIntosh Labs preamps, using electronic input switching which provides noiseless, reliable, and distortion free input selection.
Should you use the USB input for computer audio, know that the MDA200 DAC is designated as Roon tested. The Roon interface can access your digital library with crystal clarity.
In our testing, we learned the input codes on our C22 were the same as the factory default input remote control codes for the MDA 200. Cleverly, McIntosh allows you to assign another set of codes to work with the MDA200 Digital Audio Converter in the easy-to-use set up menu.
If you want to use the MDA200 as a DAC with your existing audio system, it will come preset with fixed output. However, it can function as a 7-input digital preamp if you go into the menu and change its audio output to be variable. Quite a few DAC’s on the market offer these two options, but a lot of them just do not have the gain to properly drive a power amp. It works, but you lose out on dynamics. McIntosh Labs gave it a very low output impedance, which means it can easily drive long cables should your power amp or amps be located at your speakers. Unlike nlike most DAC’s that top out at 2 volts RMS output, the MDA200 can put out 8 volts! It should be able to easily drive any power amp even with long cable runs.
If you are using it in DAC mode, the volume levels are done by a new precision
digitally controlled attenuator system with a tracking accuracy of 0.5dB.
But the real magic in the MDA200 DAC and the main reason we think it is going to be a timeless piece is the way McIntosh crafted the digital board. If you have followed audio over time, you know fully well, digital technology does not stand still. In just the last decade, we have moved far beyond CD quality with Hi-Res Audio and DSD. The first two McIntosh DAC’s had great technology for their time, but as new standards came out in the digital world, they were left behind.
Several years ago, McIntosh recognized this and had a complete shift in how they design two-channel digital components. They came up with the idea of a digital audio module that contains the digital components. Their first was called the DA1. We’ve recently seen the DA2 emerge. The MDA200 has a big slot on the rear panel where the DA module slides into. It's not a matter of if, but when, there will be a DA3 on the market. If you have a unit now with a DA1, you can upgrade to a DA2 for $1000. This design should keep your MDA200 current for the future, allowing you to have the latest and greatest when better tech comes out.
The DA2 has some fantastic DACs inside too. The coaxial and optical inputs process digital signals up to 192kHz with 24-bit resolution. The digital MCT DIN connection allows for streaming of high bandwidth digital signals (DSD, PCM) from external McIntosh sources.
The USB input processes PCM digital signals up to 192kHz with 32-bit resolution, decodes up to DSD512 digital signals and DXD 24-bit with a sampling rate of 352.8kHz (or 384kHz).
McIntosh Labs uses what is called their Quad Balanced, 8-channel, 32-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). You may wonder why a two-channel DAC needs 8 channels? There are two big advantages. First, if you parallel two DAC’s, you get 3 dB of improvement in signal to noise ratio. But that is just half of it. These are run in a balanced mode where there are two in one channel paralleled for the positive half of the signal and another two in parallel for the negative half. This type of balanced design greatly reduces noise.
Once the digital signal is converted to analog, it leaves the DA2 module and passes over to the analog preamp side of the MDA200. McIntosh used the circuit design in their very popular C53 solid state stereo preamp in the MDA200.
All of this great tech adds up to another wonderful piece of gear from McIntosh Labs.
The only item missing is the ability to stream music. We asked McIntosh about this and got a very honest and sensible answer. They wanted to create the best sounding DAC they could and not be limited by having to pay license fees and keep up with the software changes of all the various streaming music services. There are already several very good and inexpensive streamers on the market with digital outputs, which allows you to connect their streamed digital feed up to the MDA200 to take advantage of its far superior DAC’s and analog circuit. Both the Bluesound Node or Cambridge CXN models would be good choices, which was actually how we went about testing the MDA200.
What About the Performance?
We set the MDA200 up with a pair of JBL 4367 floor standing speakers driven by a McIntosh MC1502 power amp, with the C22 preamp, the MDA 200 as the DAC, and fed the MDA 200 with coaxial digital out from the Cambridge Audio CXN V2. This system is mostly used for vinyl playback, with the Cambridge providing quick access to digital music. For the hell of it, we played a few tracks first on the CXN V2, which in our opinion is one of the best streamer/DAC/preamps on the market today for its modest price.
When we switched over to the MDA200 as the DAC, we were not prepared for the huge improvement we heard. Yes, the MDA200 is about 4 times the price of the CXN V2, but like all recent McIntosh releases we have tested, the MDA200 is just incredibly musical with rhythm and pacing you expect to hear from the best British gear.
Our test tracks included some of our old standards like “Lay Me Down” by Crosby Nash, “Canola Fields” by James McMurtry, “Sandman” from America, and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” from Harry Connick Jr.
“Canola Fields” was first and we heard a huge, warm yet detailed sound stage with pacing that had our feet stomping. The bass line was deep and impactful but also very tuneful as well. As we played through all of these cuts, we heard dynamic contrasts exploding with an image that was on point, yet way outside the speakers and very three-dimensional.
“Sandman” is a great cut as on some systems it can sound a little edgy but with the MDA 200, it was extremely enjoyable. This led us to pull out an old favorite, that never sounds that great, but is a wonderful track, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” We cranked this one up and never sensed one trace of harshness as the MDA200 revealed all kinds of small details, while at the same time allowing us to fully enjoy the song.
What Are Our Recommendations?
The MDA 200 is yet another wonderful product from our friends in Binghamton, NY. Like all McIntosh Labs gear we have heard recently, it lets you enjoy any music in your library while highlighting things you never knew were on the track. For McIntosh owners, this is a no-brainer DAC to add to your system to get you enjoying digital sources.
If you are in the market for a high-performance DAC, you should give the MDA200 serious consideration. The fact it has a DAC slot that allows you to change the digital side as things progress is a big selling point. If you own a current McIntosh piece that lets you install the amazing DA2 digital board, we highly recommend that as well.
At the heart of the MDA200 is the McIntosh DA2 Digital Audio Module. The DA2 has 7 digital audio inputs: 2 coaxial, 2 optical, 1 USB and 1 MCT (for use with their MCT series of SACD/CD Transports), and 1 audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection. The DA2 is powered by a next generation, Quad Balanced, 8-channel, 32-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). This audiophile-grade DAC features improved dynamic range and improved total harmonic distortion. The DA2 supports high resolution digital audio playback, as the USB input supports native playback of up to DSD512 and DXD up to 384kHz, while the coax and optical inputs can decode digital music up to 24-bit/192kHz.
The HDMI (ARC) input allows TVs with a compatible HDMI (ARC) output to be connected to your home stereo system to bring a new level of audio performance to your TV and movie watching that TV speakers or soundbars just can't provide. Popular multi-channel audio formats from Dolby® and DTS® are supported and will be expertly converted to 2-channel audio for proper playback.
The DA2 has received Roon Tested designation from Roon Labs, which can be especially useful if you have an extensive library of digital music. As a Roon Tested partner, McIntosh has provided equipment to Roon for testing with a variety of different operating systems and computers, and shared information about its design and capabilities.
Additionally, since digital music formats and technologies change and improve over time, it is possible to replace the DA2 in the MDA200 with a newer Digital Audio Module should one be introduced in the future. This protects your investment in the MDA200 and provides peace of mind that it can be enjoyed as a valuable part of your home entertainment system for many years to come.
To connect the MDA200 to your sound system's preamplifier or integrated amplifier, it has a pair of both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs. McIntosh offers both balanced cables and unbalanced cables to make these connections.
The MDA200 comes from the factory in fixed output mode, but it does offer the option of setting its output to variable mode. This provides the ability to directly connect the MDA200 to a power amplifier in an audio system that only has digital audio sources; no other preamplifier would be needed in this setup. Volume could then be changed via the front panel ADJUST knob or with the supplied remote control.
The front of the MDA200 showcases classic McIntosh design cues of a black glass faceplate with an illuminated logo, rotary controls knobs, custom machined aluminum end caps, and an easy-to-read display with adjustable brightness settings. The back panel includes convenient Power Control and data ports.
- Premium Digital Performance
- Add digital music playback to an all analog system or replace an older, outdated converter
- Comes with DA2 Digital Audio Module installed
- Supports up to DSD512 and 24-bit/192kHz
- 7 digital inputs: 2 coax, 2 optical, 1 USB, 1 MCT, 1 HDMI (ARC)
- Balanced and unbalanced analog outputs
|Number of Channels||2|
|Total Harmonic Distortion||0.005%|
|Frequency Response||+0, -0.5dB from 20Hz to 20kHz
+0, -3dB from 5Hz to 60kHz (Source dependent)
|Maximum Volts Out (Balanced / Unbalanced)||4.0V RMS / 2V RMS (Fixed Output)
0-16V RMS / 0-8V RMS (Adjustable Output)
|Signal To Noise Ratio||100dB|
|Output Impedance||100 Ohms (Balanced and Unbalanced)|
|Digital Coaxial Input||2|
|Digital Optical Input||2|
|Digital MCT Input||1|
|Digital USB Input||1|
|HDMI (ARC) Input||1|
|Data Input||200W (operating power)
Less than 2W (standby power)
|Data Output||HDMI ARC
USB Type C
Analog 3.5mm Auxiliary
RJ45 Ethernet (network)
RJ45 Ethernet (interspeaker)
|Power Control Input||RCA Subwoofer output|
|Power Control Output||IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
|Rear Panel IR Sensor Input||Dual-band 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz|
|Rear Panel IR Sensor Input||RS232 Control Input|
|Vacuum Tube or Solid State||Solid State|
|Power Consumption (On)||35 Watts|
|Weights and Dimensions|
|Unit Dimensions (W x H x D)||17-1/2" x 3-7/8" x 15-11/16"
44.45 x 9.8 x 39.95 cm
|Unit Weight||13.5 lbs
|Shipping Weight||28 lbs